Becoming an international scholar and bestselling author:

Professor Suk H. Kim

The Current, Summer 2002 issue


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It's been more than 20 years now, but the memories of that first, difficult year are still vivid. In 1980, Suk H. Kim was seeking a publisher for his textbook proposal on global corporate finance. The book was to be the culmination of his professional work to that point, and the focus of a lifelong dream for him. But it wasn't happening.

More than once a week, on average, he received yet another rejection letter from yet another prospective publisher. Sixty times he went to the mailbox, 60 times he read: "No, thanks." Worse than the stream of rejections were the responses of his trusted University colleagues, all of whom urged Kim to give up this dream. One was so blunt as to tell him that his writing style was terrible; no publisher would ever be interested. Attempting to soften the blow, the colleague added, "Well, you could probably publish the book on your own."

The thought sparked a new course of action for Kim. After a few additional rejections, a publisher finally accepted the book proposal under three stringent conditions: Kim would submit a camera-ready copy of the book, would guarantee a minimum sale of 80 copies, and would receive no royalties for the first 500 copies sold.

Kim accepted these three conditions to publish that first book, Introduction to International Financial Management, in 1980. As he worked on the book, he realized that inspiration was all around him. Lessons from rejections of his book and other academic papers had taught him to set clear goals. Such lessons would be a companion to his publishing endeavors for years to come.

The fact is, for a long time, Introduction to International Financial Management didn't come close to Kim's dream of producing a bestseller. As a moderate success, the book's original publisher declined Kim's request to revise and republish the book. Rather than letting it fade into the dusty annals of library archives, Kim took the book to another publisher. Then, he went through the same process again--six times in all, and today there are six different publisher's imprints on revised versions of the textbook since 1980. Professor Kim had learned early in life that the best success is found in reaching beyond the status quo. He pushed himself to think beyond what seemed possible--even in the face of serial rejection. He had spent most of his life fighting the odds, but he believed that if he were determined enough, he would succeed anywhere.

Originally, Kim wasn't particularly interested in writing textbooks; he wanted to publish academic papers in respected finance journals. The turning point came in 1979 when his first article, a portion of his doctoral dissertation, was rejected by a well-known finance journal after he had substantially revised it four times over two years. He was devastated by the rejection of his article--his best work--and could not bring himself to do any significant work for months. Then, the inspiration came. "If journal editors would not publish my academic papers," he says, "then I'd have to think bigger: I would write textbooks."

Thinking bigger was not new to him--nor was significant success in his field. When he had arrived in Los Angeles from Korea more than a decade earlier, he had $50 in his pocket and no set plan for his future. "I would never do that again," he concedes today, with a broad smile on his face. He certainly won't have to. He has achieved a great deal in the ensuing 30 years, including earning his MBA and Ph.D. and becoming an internationally-respected expert in the field of international finance. Kim makes it clear that his success comes primarily from persistence and dedication. "I am not a particularly smart man," he insists. "I just work hard." That is a modest assessment for a man who was one of the top 25 international business researchers in the 1980s and spent 1992 as a Fulbright Scholar at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Through persistence and focus, he has now authored or co-authored 18 finance textbooks and 60 refereed journal publications. According to an article by Allen Morrison and Andrew Inkpen (Journal of International Business Studies, 1st Quarter 1991), Kim was among the top 25 international business researchers in the 1980s. Although there are more than 20 textbooks in international finance, only a few--including Kim's---have been in print through 5 editions. Indeed, his Global Corporate Finance has been used at more than 200 colleges, universities, and management development programs worldwide, because it stresses practical applications in a user-friendly format.

Kim is the coordinator of finance and international business at UDM. The quality of his work is evident in even a cursory examination of Multinational Business Review, a leading international business journal which he founded in 1992. An article by Frank DuBois (Journal of International Business Studies, 4th Quarter 2000) identified Multinational Business Review as one of the five core journals in international business. While Kim still teaches, writes articles and serves on the editorial review boards of several academic journals, he wants to shift his focus and devote more energy to some projects that have been on his mind for the past several years. It is partly for this reason that Kim is retiring as editor of Multinational Business Review, and the home of the journal is moving to St. Louis University.

His dreams of publishing for a broad audience are still alive and well. Persistence and determination compelled him to complete what would become a bestseller, Global Corporate Finance: Text and Cases, 5th edition, published in January 2002 by Blackwell Publishers. The text was an extension of his first book, Introduction to International Financial Management. While he isn't offering many details about his upcoming publishing ventures, it is likely that the persistence, determination, resourcefulness and dedication to excellence he has learned through decades of experience will bring his future projects to bestseller lists as well.



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